Sharing the Voice: The Power of Words

Recently on Facebook, Amy Beth Gardner posted a photo of toothpaste, all squirted out of its tube, along with a couple of paragraphs—you could call it the “toothpaste lesson,” and it has since gone viral. Her daughter was getting ready to start middle school, and she wanted to share with her a powerful lesson—about the incredible power of words: “I gave her a tube of toothpaste and asked her to squirt it out onto a plate. When she finished, I calmly asked her to put [it] all…back in the tube. She began exclaiming…‘But I can’t!’”

And that was exactly Amy Beth’s point; she told her daughter, “You will remember this plate of toothpaste for the rest of your life. Your words have the power of life or death… Just like this toothpaste, once the words leave your mouth, you can’t take them back.”

Words do indeed have life-or-death power. For all of us…not just kids in middle school. Rebecca’s Dream, now in its second decade, believes in this power….words can heal…and words can hurt…especially for those living with depression and bipolar disorder.

And it is past time to be careful with our words.

Do we need to use words that denigrate and demoralize others who are different than we are….?

Do we need to use words to make us feel smarter than, stronger than, better than those who need kindness and understanding for something they did not bring on themselves….?

Do we need to use words to elevate ourselves by keeping others down….?



And again, NO!

The time is now to take a look at how our language is permeated with hurtful words. And I’d like to do that here. And now.

What follows is a list of hurtful, denigrating, demoralizing words. And that list isn’t nearly as long as it could and should be, because it has been edited down, because some of the words that really do belong on this list are so denigrating and demoralizing that they are, quite frankly, unfit to print. And that alone should tell us something…if they’re unfit simply to print, what makes them somehow “fit” to say to, or about, someone?

Rebecca’s Dream invites you, dear supporter of the Dream, to send us words you’ve heard that wound and shame. We’ll print them anonymously. And we’ll keep the list going. And together, we will bring awareness and compassionate understanding to all who need it and deserve it.

THE LIST AS OF SEPTEMBER 2016 (in no particular order)

brainsick, daft, demented, disordered, distraught, dotty, crazy, insane, lunatic, mad, maniac, maniacal, mentally ill, moonstruck, off, touched, unbalanced, unsound, wrong, bonkers, cracked, cracked up, daffy, gaga, loony, bananas, batty, buggy, cuckoo, fruity, loco, nuts, nutty, screwy, wacky, crackers, around the bend, crazy as a loon, mad as a hatter, not all there, nutty as a fruitcake, off/out of your head, off your rocker, of unsound mind, out of your mind, sick in the head, stark raving mad, mentally strange, kooky, ape, berserk, psycho, screwball, barmy, has bats in the belfry, crazed, delirious, dingy, deranged, dippy, erratic, flaky, flipped, flipped out, flaked out,  freaked out, idiotic, out of your tree, out to lunch, round the bend, schizo, has a screw loose, touched, unglued, unhinged, unzipped, bugged out, harebrained, mentally incompetent, mental, a mental case, moronic, odd, Mickey Mouse, boffo, goofus, crooked, awry, in the twilight zone, spaced out, off the wall, certifiable, cray-cray, crazy pants, creepy, freaky-deaky, goocher, messed up, more cuckoo than a clock, nutso, off your box, off your nut, off the deep end, one fry short of a Happy Meal, out there, postal psycho, spastic, two cans short of a six-pack, unbelievabubble, wacked, wacked out, whack-whacked, wigged out, zany, strange, weird, broken, insane in the membrane, insane in the brain, sick, kooky, leafy, off your rocket, psychotic, psychopathic, retarded, in the loony bin

The next time you hear someone say any of these—or other—words, stand up and shut them down…with kindness: “Are you aware of how hurtful your words are? Are you aware that there’s a real person with real feelings on the other side of those words? Are you aware of how shaming your language is? Are you aware???”

Stand up.
Stop the cycle of hurt.
We can make changes.
We will make changes.
We must make changes.

Rebecca’s Dream exists because its work is not done. But we need you to help us do that work, to help us promote awareness and compassionate understanding of depression and bipolar disorder as real diseases.

We need each other.

Send your words to

With hope for the future,